Sun, Mar 27, 2016 - Page 19 News List

Coe defends ‘proactive’ IAAF anti-doping record

AFP, LONDON

International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) president Sebastian Coe has defended his sport’s approach to anti-doping, saying it was far more “proactive” than “protective,” despite a drugs scandal he accepted has caused “irreparable damage.”

Last year’s hard-hitting World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report that revealed state-sponsored doping in Russia has seen the nation suspended from all international competition.

Perhaps even more alarming have been allegations that senior track and field figures, including former IAAF president Lamine Diack, were involved in corrupt practices that saw positive dope tests covered up in return for bribes.

Belarus, Ukraine, Ethiopia, Morocco and Kenya have all been warned by the IAAF that they must improve their anti-doping programs or face the same sanctions as Russia, whose athletes are currently barred from this year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

It all amounts to the worst crisis in athletics’ history.

However, Coe defended the IAAF’s record.

“I think the IAAF has been far, far more proactive than it has been protective,” he said. “A few people infiltrated the system and caused us irreparable damage, there is no point in even pretending otherwise.”

“If you look at all the key advances that have been made in sport around anti-doping, they have more than often been driven by my sport — the athlete biological passport, the out-of-competition random testing. We have paid a very high price for what has been revealed in the last few years, but actually our systems have shown to be pretty robust,” he added.

“I think there is a twin challenge here as well: If we do not get the trust of the athletes back, if we have not got the families, the parents feeling comfortable that this is a sport they are going to devote time and energy and affection to, we might as well all go home,” he said.

Coe reiterated his calls for shorter World Championships, while adding that the athletics season needed to be extended to boost the sport’s global profile.

“This is about survival, doing radical things. I have to put to the back of my mind it is an unpopular thing to do,” Coe said, adding that he wants to see far more head-to-head clashes between elite competitors.

“Agents and managers at the beginning of the season say ‘our guy is going to have a quiet year.’ It is a bit like selling season tickets at Barcelona and saying Lionel Messi is only going to play one in three games. You do not do that,” he added.

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